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Austin FC stadium will break ground Sept. 5

Austin FC will officially launch construction on its home stadium with a groundbreaking event on Thursday, Sept. 5. 

MLS Commissioner Don Garber will make his second official trip to Austin in eight months to commemorate the milestone, joining Austin FC CEO and Anthony Precourt and Austin Mayor Steve Adler as he did back in January for Austin FC’s official entry into MLS. 

Though the Sept. 5 event won’t be open to the public, the event — including media members and a small group of invited guests — will be streamed on Austin FC’s Facebook page, starting at 11 am CT. 

The future MLS club announced the news during a “State of the Stadium” event Wednesday, which also included an update on the construction schedule. Austin FC projects a relatively speedy 18 to 19 months between next month’s groundbreaking and the opening of the 20,500-seat stadium to fans.

During a presentation, Two Oak Ventures president Dave Greeley emphasized that the stadium will be built with private funding, owned by the city and rented by Austin FC — hitting the high points from the agreement with the Austin City Council forged a little more than a year ago.

Gensler is the architecture firm working on the stadium, and Jonathan Emmett is the design director/sports facilities leader. He said the construction timeline is similar to the schedule for the firm’s most recently completed MLS project: Banc of California Stadium, which LAFC opened in its seventh game of the 2018 season. 

Greeley believes the construction team will deliver the stadium within the projected window, but the April completion date indicates Austin FC will start its inaugural season on the road. They did not announce a contingency plan to use another home stadium should there be an unforeseen delay.

The Austin FC announcement comes just a day after the team officially graduated from being the new kid on the block, with Garber visiting St. Louis to announce that city would become  MLS’ 28th franchise in 2022.

The stadium news also adds to the continuing saga involving Austin FC and its USL counterpart, Austin Bold FC. On Monday, the Fair Play Austin Political Action Committee funded by Bold owner Bobby Epstein withdrew support for Proposition A, a voter proposition the PAC fought to get on the November 2019 ballot.

Proposition A calls for an election on the lease of any city-owned property for a sports or entertainment venue.

Last year, Epstein funded and then withdrew support for a PAC gathering signatures on a petition that became Proposition A. The more than 30,000 signatures, submitted by a small group of community activists who worked with PAC members during the stadium debate, were submitted to the city for verification two weeks after the city and Precourt officially signed the stadium deal approved in last August’s 7-4 Council vote. 

The Austin City Council just placed the proposition on the November 2019 ballot per Austin city rules on petitions.

The statement withdrawing support of the proposition on the Fair Play Austin website said: “In its current condition, passing Proposition A would do more harm than the good intended when we initially supported it.”

Austin law dictates the City Council must approve the exact wording of a ballot initiative, deriving from what the petition directs and adhering to existing election law. The Proposition A ballot language was approved on Aug. 9. 

In the meantime, the Bold constructed a 5,000-seat stadium on the Circuit of the Americas grounds in neighboring Elroy for the start of the 2019 USL Championship season. The Bold currently sit 4th in the West with 36 points and a 10-8-6 record. 

Greeley pledged, “We’re full speed ahead on building the stadium” in response to the pending Prop A vote. As Pro Soccer USA reported in January, Adler believes that even if Proposition A passes, it will only apply to future projects and not the already-approved deal between Precourt and the city. Stadium construction will already be underway when voters go to the polls. 

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